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The Wright place to stay in Oklahoma

January 05, 2003|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

The oil town of Bartlesville, Okla., about 40 miles north of Tulsa, may seem an unlikely place for a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece and even less likely for a boutique hotel. But both will soon make their debut as Inn at Price Tower.

At 19 stories, Wright's Bartlesville skyscraper, opened in 1956 near the end of his long career, is his tallest building. Clad in weathered green copper, it was described by the great architect as "the tree that escaped the crowded forest," said Michael Christopher, director of marketing and development for the Price Tower Arts Center, which owns the building.

The structure had been planned for Manhattan decades earlier but was never built there. Instead it rose on the Oklahoma prairie as headquarters for pipeline company H.C. Price. Its cantilevered floors were visualized as a tree's branches with glass and aluminum foliage, said Richard Townsend, the executive director of the art center.

Price Tower was conceived as a self-contained community of offices, residences and stores, but "the residential aspect never took off," Townsend said, and the building fell into disrepair in the late 1980s. In 2001 its owner, Phillips Petroleum Co., donated it to the arts center, which occupies four lower floors, and the center began a $10-million project to restore it with private funds.

On the 17th to 19th floors, the original Wright interiors are preserved and are available for tours Tuesdays through Sundays.

On the seventh through 16th floors, the arts center is creating a 21-room boutique hotel, with a two-story restaurant called Copper, scheduled to open to guests in late February, Townsend said. The hotel will be run by Dallas-based Culinaire International, which operates the oceanfront Kingston Plantation resort in Myrtle Beach, Fla.

New York architect Wendy Evans Joseph has designed room furnishings of maple, copper plumbing pipe and Tibetan and Indian textiles inspired by the building's tree theme.

There are 18 single-level rooms, with rates from $125 to $175 per night, and three split-level suites with loft beds for $250.

Room reservations were not available as of last week, but you can join a waiting list by contacting the art center at (877) 424-2424, www.pricetower.org. Tours, which include museum admission, are $5 for adults.

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